During the past month, drought conditions improved across parts of the Intermountain West, Rockies, southern Plains, lower Mississippi Valley, upper Midwest, mid-Atlantic, and Northeast. In most of these areas, the trend toward improvement is not expected to continue through the first 3 months of 2014, and in fact some drought development (or re-development) is anticipated in portions of the central and southern Rockies and the Southwest. Drought is expected to be a continuing or worsening concern along the West Coast and in the Southeast.
A large storm system in the 7 days before Christmas should bring 1 to several inches of precipitation from the southern High Plains northeastward through parts of the Midwest and the Northeast, setting the stage for drought improvement or removal in the scattered areas of drought across eastern Texas, eastern Missouri, central Illinois, and the Northeast. In addition to effects from this system, surface moisture – whether in soils and water sources or locked up in snowpack – usually increases in these regions during January – March.
Improvement is also expected in central Idaho and adjacent areas, where the January outlook favors above-normal precipitation after relatively dry weather through the end of December. Elsewhere, the trend toward decreasing drought should continue in Alaska, and with odds significantly favoring above-normal rainfall in Hawaii for January and January – March, continued slow improvement is anticipated there.
In contrast, below-normal precipitation seems more likely for January – March in the Southeast and much of the southwestern quarter of the country. Drought is expected to persist where it exists in these regions, and expand to cover areas currently exhibiting some degree of dryness (generally areas shown as abnormally dry, or D0, in the Drought Monitor). This includes Florida and a swath from the Carolinas to the central Gulf Coast in the Southeast, and most areas not already experiencing drought from Colorado and eastern Utah southward through the desert Southwest and southern Rockies, along with westernmost Texas.
California and adjacent areas in the Far West will be closely monitored this period. Patches of above-normal precipitation have been analyzed in southeastern California, but most of the state received less than half of normal precipitation during the last half of 2013, as did parts of adjacent Oregon and Nevada. From southern sections of California’s central valley to the coastal strip between San Francisco and Los Angeles, many locations recorded less than 25% of normal precipitation since late June. Both the January and January – March precipitation outlooks indicate enhanced chances for below-normal precipitation across much of the state and neighboring areas, thus drought is expected to persist or intensify.